Sunday, June 1, 2014

Simplicity Wins

Green Heron and Eastern Pondhawk. Working Proof of Lincout with Watercolor by Ken Januski.

Well at least on this print, simplicity has won. In my many, many years of doing art I'd have to say that a good principle to follow is that simplicity should win. And yet I constantly feel the need to complicate things, or more generously to modify the predictable in the interest of something fresher and more interesting.

I printed the first state of this 4x6 print on Rives Heavyweight paper today, using Daniel Smith water-soluble inks. It is simple in the sense that I will not be adding any color through more cutting on the linoleum block or through the use of a new wood block. Instead I will paint with watercolor  in some areas, as I have in the working proof above.

Still things are never quite so simple. For instance the first problem that arose when I started adding watercolor was whether or not to leave the large expanse of water blank, just the color of the paper. I thought about it then added a yellow. But then I wondered if I should break up the yellow with brushstrokes in various colors. Should the print be more like a coloring book where black outlines are filled in with just one color, or more like a painting, where various colors and brushstrokes make up each area? As I said things are never all that simple.

There is a smudge of black ink at the top of this print so it will not be in the final edition. That's why I felt like I could experiment on it and then use what I learned in the final edition. Currently there are 11 left but the more I need to experiment the smaller the edition will be.

The master of this type of print by the way, the hand-colored linocut, is Andrew Haslen. His book, The Winter Hare, shows all the preparatory work that goes into his prints. But I'd better not pull it out and look at the prints myself though. They might just make me decide to give up and not finish this print! Not really. They are an inspiration, not just in technique, but also in subject matter, the real life of the natural world.

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